Friday, December 27, 2013

Vipassana Meditation (Part -3) - The essence of Vipassana Meditation...

Vipassana focuses more on practice than rituals. So the first day itself starts with focus on breathing just in the nose, and not the whole body or abdomen. Becoming aware of the breath that is taken through the nostrils. This technique of focusing on a small area enhances our attention and accuracy to get in touch with our sensations. First it will be the entire nose, then narrowed it down to the entrance of the nose along with the triangular area above the upper lip. By this time the meditator is supposed to experience different kinds of sensations like cold, hot, itching, pain, numbness etc... around particular small area in depth.
Once you reach this point the next step is to become aware of every part of the body starting from the head to toe. It is done in bits and pieces to gain depth and accuracy. Knowing the body and becoming aware of every sensation and emotion that happens in this magnanimous creation is important as per the Vipassana tradition to live a balanced life. The more subtle you are able to get in touch with your feelings and sensations, the better you can understand the reality of life.
Vipassana basically operates on three key Buddhist principles those remain directives in human life.
1. Acceptance
2. Impermanence
3. Equanimity
First step is accepting the reality as it is. Coming to the realization that life is not just happiness alone. But it is a mixture of sorrows and happiness. It is like darkness and light. When there is darkness, the presence of light is understood. These are the polarities which life operates on. Similarly, when there is sorrow, there has to be happiness. Look at the nature, it is made of hills and valleys. When there is a hill, a valley is naturally followed. That is the simple reality of life. So the foundation of ones understanding should be acceptance of understanding the naked realities of life as it is.
Secondly, This too will pass away! Nothing is permanent. Not even the moment itself. Everything is changing. Change is the only constant in life. Every moment has a nature of arising and passing. Nothing stands firm or eternal, not even our happiness and sorrows. We start living with the foolish understanding that we are eternal. But the once you realize the principle of impermanence, you realize the futility of the belief that we hold in life.
Thirdly, life has a nature of arising and passing, it is important to keep a balance of both the situations without getting attached to either arising or passing. You be an observer, no subjective involvement. Thus maintaining equanimity in life will help you to eliminate impurities of life. According to Buddha, desire is the cause of every misery and suffering. To eliminate misery and suffering the technique Buddha propose to the world is Be an Observer.
The whole of Vipassana is about enabling human beings to reach a level of self-realization or enlightenment whereby one operates and lives life with the above principles abiding to the law of nature. Living in the moment is the key where happiness and misery are part and parcel of human existence.
Vipassana is not a quick fix solution to the problems of life, rather it makes you more and more aware of the realities of life abiding with the law of nature or universal truth (dhamma).
During the ten days of rigorous vipassana will embed the seeds in you to lead a life of awareness. It is upto you to take it or leave it. You need to continuously practice it to reach the stage of perfection in this tradition. So just doing ten days will not take you anywhere. It is just a class room session, but the real practice comes as you devout your time on a daily basis for it. Then the benefits of Vipassana will pop up in your daily life.
Well. that is more well as about the whole ten days course. However, i will be giving my own observations about it in the part -4
To be continued...
Joji Valli
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Vipassna Meditation (Part -2) - the way i experienced it from beyond religions...

Refectory looked very neat and clean. There was tea and milk kept separately along with puffed rice in another container. Men and Women have separate places to avoid any kind of temptation that might have occurred among the so called sensual animals. During the next ten days we are strictly asked not to keep any kind of contact or even to look at each other. Probably, Goenka knew very well that like in the story of Bible, the Eves might take a chance to brain-wash or seduce the Adams, and that might cause lucidity in the observance of strict discipline.:)
 In the men's side of the refectory, you go very silently, stand in a queue, then grab a steel plate from the rack. Then looking on your toes remain till your chance come. When your chance comes, take very little puffed rice and either a glass of milk or tea. Walk towards the seats which are set against the wall. Start consuming the food looking at the wall infront of you. So that no provocation or temptation can sidetrack you from the observance of strict discipline.
As it is the first day and knowing that there won't be anything for dinner, the young and fat ones after consuming the quota they have in the plate, march for one more filling to satisfy their hunger. Well. at least on the first day who can resist the craving of the stomach and cry of the thundering commotion in the half-empty stomach?
After the so called dinner, everyone goes to the respective allotted residences. The first timers are provided with not single rooms but two sadaks in one room. A very small room which has beds made of kadappa stones. On either side a bed and mosquito net is provided. The room is totally netted so that the meditator is protected from the wild attack of mosquitoes. The room has a small bathroom and toilet. A fairly good accommodation for the next ten days. And it is free, so who can complain? That's the key. Or once you make the vow of golden silence there is no relevance for silver complaints.:) There is also a fan and three zero watt bulbs in the room with an attached toilet and bathroom respectively. In a few places it is written, "use less water, save our country," "Switch off the lights and save our country." Well. very effective and efficient way of conveying the disciplinarian principles at the sadak's subconscious levels.
It is ten to 6.00pm, an electric bell echos from the top of the Dhamma hall for about half a minute. Dhamma hall is the place for meditation and talks. Next ten days more than twelve hours per day will be spend in this place where many are supposed to witness purification of mind and body which will bring about cessation of misery and suffering leading to buddhahood (awakened state). It is a huge hall inside which could accommodate around 300 people atleast. It is east facing and has an octagon shaped  concrete structure culminating to a dome. There are two empty cushioned chairs which seems like the seat of the big boss and her lady (Goenka and his wife) which remains untouched. Just in front of that again two chairs where the assistant teachers - one male and female would sit and meditate facing the meditators. I hardly found any role of those two teachers sitting there. I think, they are like rubber stamps like the Indian president. But when i asked one of the teachers on the last day, the male teacher told me their role is very relevant as they keep emitting positive energy or vibration to the participants. Of course, if any participant has any doubt during the course, they are free to talk to the rubber stamp or nominal teachers. I will talk more about it later.
There are around 90 cushions kept for the meditators leaving a mid way straight across separating men and woman. Each sadak is allotted a seat and for the next ten days, no one is supposed to change the seats. Along side of the nominal teachers there are a few sevaks  (who come to serve voluntarily to make sure the smooth functioning of the course) seated. They have a very important role to play. It is their duty to maintain the observance of disciplines and handle the grievances of the sadaks. They run around with bells and make sure that everyone is in the dhamma hall for all the meditations. They make sure that you don't even utter a word to break your golden silence with their omnipresence. If you happen to break the silence, they will come with folded hands in the traditional way without looking into your eyes start uttering slowly and piously 'mangalam bhavantu'. Which simply means in other way that you have broken the rule, keep quite.(They are the policemen in the Vipassanashram :). So i liked those sevaks and their role... :)
To be continued...
Joji Valli
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Vipassna Meditation - the way i experienced it from beyond religions... (Part -1 - registration and formalities)

What is Vipassana?
Vipassana, means to observe/to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art Of Living. It is the way to purification of mind and body there by becoming an awakened one (buddha) and way to reduce or eradicate suffering or misery that we experience in life.

Vipassna - the way i experienced it from beyond religions... (My personal experience)
A craving in me was pushing some buttons in once in a while for the past few months to attend the Vipassana Meditation. Of course, I have heard about it around 20 years ago and then i decided i want to attend it sometime in my life. But freeing myself from the bondage of time, responsibilities and other mundane duties always remained as a blockage from me attending. It is not that easy to set apart ten full days totally cut off from the mundane activities and devout oneself for the practice of Vipassana. Fortunately, the lady luck favored me as i declared a three months statistical for myself after completing my doctoral research studies.
As the craving or thoughts began disturbing me, i tried to book for the course online around 15th of November for the batch starting from first of December 2013. As it was already late, all the seats were full. So once again, i lost my enthusiasm. For a few days i did not bother again. However, i always believe in the interplay of divine intervention, if something were to happen in life. On 23rd of November, again the thought of attending the course became so strong within me. Then a way all of a sudden appeared to me. I knew one of the persons who is a teacher in one of the Pune center. So I called him and told my desire to enter the course. He asked me to contact him on the next day. As per the instruction i called him and he told me that he could squeeze me in against some cancellation. Oh, Wonderful, finally my craving or desire for participation is almost manifesting. I always believe that when the right time comes, if something has to happen in life will happen irrespective of whatsoever be the hurdles or difficulties. Existence will always bring you to it, if it is destined in your life, as it is the law of nature.
Packing my bag with sufficient cloths and other accessories for ten days i set out to the venue which is 30 km from Pune. This particular Vipassana center is situated in the midst of a village called Markel, which is the meeting point of three rivers. A beautiful place fully loaded with the bountiful extravagance of nature for the purification of mind and body - perfect place for introspection of self without any disturbance and interruption.
Though the course is for ten days, one will have to shell out two more days as the day of arrival and departure are not included in the counted ten days. The first day registration and other formalities were done. Rules and regulations were explained in its minute details. As i heard about it i warned myself of reliving those old seminary life for the next ten days. Infact the seminary life was better as there was no insistence on the 'golden silence'.
At the end of the it all were asked to surrender, their mobiles and other gadgets and valuables. All done very systematically and scrupoulously, making sure the meditator (sadak) is totally free from all mundane affairs. So that the sadak can meditate peacefully without bothering about anything in the world except purifying once own mind and body.
The first session along with the observance of silence was scheduled at 6pm in the evening. Prior to that there was a snacks session along with a glass of milk/tea which was supposed to be the dinner at 5pm. Many fat and young sadaks were shocked to experience the first taste of starvation and abstinence...
To be continued...
Joji Valli
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